Is Experience Management System A Better Descriptor For Digital Signage CMS?

May 2, 2024 by Dave Haynes

For as long as I have been knocking out Sixteen:Nine posts, people have been debating what to call this industry – as not that many people are entirely happy with digital signage, but the alternative handles haven’t resonated either.

How about Experience Management System? I could argue the pros and cons of that one for an hour or two.

I mention that because I came across a post on Linkedin from an unfamiliar company called Centro, referencing itself as offering an Experience Management System, with the tag line of: Empowering Digital Storytelling in Every Environment.

The Linkedin post says the Kansas City, KS company has north of 200 employees – but not one associated with the company’s Linkedin profile. Weird, I thought.

So I looked up the address and realized Centro is much more a product than a company, and it falls under the umbrella of the experience design and build firm Dimensional Innovations … which I DO know about.

DI calls its product the Centro Experience Management System, but it is digital signage. The Why Centro question even answers: Centro offers the tools to display captivating digital signage messages that resonate with your diverse audience, fostering meaningful engagement throughout your building. Elevate your communication strategy with Centro and unlock the potential for deeper tenant engagement and community connection.

I think it’s an interesting descriptor for what this industry does, but I’m not convinced it is one the broader industry should adopt.

First, the acronym is EMS, which many or most people will instantly relate to emergency medical services.

Second, look up Experience Management System and the search brings back all kinds of varied pronouncements about experience management and customer experience management, often relating it to products from tech giants like Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce. I very happily don’t sell software, but if I did, I would not want to compete with Fortune 100 companies for customer attention and business.

I also worry that the term experience would get a lot of people thinking experience equals experiential, and that experience management means big, expensive, visually-driven experiential projects like giant video walls in office towers and airports. Companies like Moment Factory and DI do experience, but a lot of digital signage CMS software companies are much more about delivering needed communications – like pricing or guidance – at scale.

But … I could also argue experiential could be much more broadly applied. I like the monumental, digitally-driven displays that are signature experiential features of new or revitalized airports. But I also like simple information displays in airports that just help me get through the process and to a departure gate or arrivals and baggage. That’s as much part of the airport experience as the expensive and flashy stuff.

What do you think?

  1. Jackie says:

    I think the one thing that we always have to remember is how we are fitting into the broader ecosystem of our clients’ enterprise – from both an experience perspective and an enterprise tech perspective. For our smaller customers, this matters less, but for the big aspirational customers we all want to land, it matters a lot. I’ve been saying for 15 years that “CMS” is a poor descriptor for signage management tools because EVERY SINGLE COMPANY already has a CMS – and ours doesn’t do what theirs does, and cannot replace it.

    CMS often integrates with a DAM (Digital Asset Manager) to facilitate content reuse across an entire enterprise, and typically we don’t do that either. So, we aren’t managing their content – we are essentially managing OUR content, that is, the content that will go on their signage. The problem with Experience Management System is fairly obvious – signage and associated venue-based experiences are one tiny piece of a company’s experience ecosystem, and when they think about digital experience, they are typically thinking about web & mobile, and sometimes other channels, but signage is way down the list if it’s there at all. See “Adobe Experience Manager” which is the name of one of the largest and most popular enterprise Content Management Solutions, who has dubbed their signage extension Adobe Screens.

    I agree that “signage” is limiting, and “kiosks” sound like the 80s and only cover a fraction of our use cases, but when we want to speak to the largest brands that we are all lining up to serve, we shouldn’t try to use words that they already use for other things. And if we are, we need to at least have a very very clear awareness of the baggage that comes along with those words and why exactly a customer might say “how is this different than what I already have?”

    Let’s keep working on the words. Digital Signage Experience (i.e. the rebooted DSE) is IMO on the right track. Sometimes we just need to call it what it is.

    1. Dave Haynes says:

      Great points, Jackie.

      To me, the important thing is for companies to very clearly say what they do and offer, and why they’re in some way special or notable. I see too many marketing lines that are just buzzword bingo exercises.

  2. Wes Dixon says:

    Why not? And while we’re at it we can call milk a “bovine lactation drink”

  3. Pravesh Dookun says:

    What about Customer Experience Management System – more specific than generalized.

  4. craig keefner says:

    It used to be ad-driven marketing display ads in public spaces (airports). Peripheral background advertising. Menu boards on other hand trigger a purchase so a case for interactive can be made. Informational displays. I haven’t seen any bidirectional transactions between a display and a mobile devices (Wifi or BT). Meanwhile the holy graille of Measurable ROI remains endlessly elusive. We have same problem with advertising info displays for kiosks and ATMs. SOunds good and can be conjectured, but never measured.

    1. Craig keefner says:

      Dynamic Advertising Module Network (or DAMN for short)

      1. Jackie says:


  5. Ken Goldberg says:

    I used to enjoy jousting with the late Lyle Bunn over his love for the term “dynamic digital signage”. I would argue that if it isn’t dynamic, why be digital? At any rate, back in 2010, I wrote about the confusion caused by calling our core applications a CMS. It was something Lyle and I could agree upon…. I went with Digital Signage Platform… Of course since then, the acronym DSP has very different connotations.

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